The Jeep Renegade is one of the most important vehicles the Jeep brand has launched, well since last year when it introduced the Cherokee. But it’s vital to Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, which is eager to emerge as a truly global company.
The launch of the Renegade also means FCA has to show it can take the secret sauce that has made the Jeep brand popular over the years in the U.S. and transform it into a truly global brand. It also certainly means that the Renegade also has to show that it can live up to the brand’s reputation for agility and capability when the pavement ends.
My distinct impression, after driving the Renegade, both on road and off is that the Renegade measures up to the other vehicles in the Jeep portfolio. The only difference is that the Renegade is smaller.
On the outside, the Renegade builds on Jeep’s heritage. It has the Wrangler-inspired round headlights, a seven-slot grille and Chrysler’s designers borrowed the struts used to reinforce the Jeep’s spare gasoline can for the taillights and other elements of the newest Jeep, which also borrows the upright windshield of the original 1941 Jeep. While some will see much of Jeep’s style evolution in the Renegade, critics have suggested it looks short and boxy.
The interior of the Renegade is, I found, very comfortable … surprisingly comfortable, in fact. It comes with a mix of materials and textures that give the Renegade a more upscale ambience even though prices for the small Jeep will start at less than $18,000. In addition, the instrument panel, which contains two screens, one for information about the vehicle and another for infotainment, is also relatively simple and the controls are easy to use.
The one drawback is that interior, when it’s filled with driver and passengers, can seem relatively cramped, given the narrow 60.6 inch track or width and short wheel base.
The most expensive version comes in at more than $33,000 after the application of the $995 destination charge. But what is expected to become the most popular model will sell for around $26,000. At that price the Jeep Renegade Latitude will be capable of handling a variety of terrain, which can’t be said for other small SUVs in the same price class.
The engineering behind the Renegade’s exterior design with its unique front fascia, which is built around the traditional shapes of the headlights and grille, resulted in a vehicle that handles well on and off road, where it displays all the agility and maneuverability of the other vehicles in the Jeep portfolio, including vehicles such as Wrangler and even the Grand Cherokee.
But the Renegade also delivers a surprisingly smooth and deft ride on regular roads and streets so it can compete effectively with vehicles such as the Buick Encore and Kia Soul. The on-road handling of the Renegade is also very smooth and efficient with thanks to the nicely tuned electric power steering, disc brakes and well-calibrated suspension, which was specifically designed so the Renegade could travel both on and off-road.
The Jeep Renegade also is available with two distinct power trains each capable of delivering 4×4 traction as well as terrific performance even though they have very different characteristics.
The 2.4-liter Tigershark Multi-Air2 inline-four Chrysler engine is matched up with a nine-speed ZF transmission and is capable of delivering 180 horsepower and 1.4-liter Multi-Air turbo four-cylinder with manual six speed can produce 160 horsepower and 184 foot pounds of torque.
The 4×4 system of the Renegade, which is available with both powertrains, also comes with a unique rear-axle disconnect system delivers 4×2 levels of fuel-efficiency and instantly engages 4×4 when traction is needed.
(Renegade to lead Jeep’s global expansion. For more, Click Here.)
Both systems automatically and switch between 4×2 and 4×4 for full-time torque management and optimal traction when required.
The Jeep Active Drive on the Renegade is matched to a power transfer unit that is fully automatic and provides seamless operation in and out of four-wheel drive, and at any speed. The system requires no driver intervention, improving handling during both understeer and oversteer conditions.
(Click Here for details about what states pay for auto jobs.)
Jeep Active Drive and Active Drive Low also come with a feature that allows the driver to select the setting most appropriate for the terrain, allowing the driver to dial in the desired on- or off-road setting for the best performance. Up to five customized settings are offered among them snow, mud and rock.
The Renegade also comes with a full range of both safety and driver assistance equipment, such as forward collision warning, blind spot alerts, a backup camera and system to detect potential collisions as the Renegade moves backwards.
(To see the Grand Cherokee’s latest award, Click Here.)
The safety equipment is also matched up with a FCA’s first-rate connectivity system, Uconnect, which is also available on the Renegade and can be equipped with navigation.
Following the success of the Grand Cherokee and Cherokee introduced last year the overall performance of the Renegade during our test runs suggests it could well be the next big thing from Jeep, the third in the span of five years.